What Is “Lordship Salvation”?

As we seem to be rapidly approaching the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Gospel is under considerable attack and will continue to be diluted and polluted by “certain people [who] have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4).

One such attack from the pit of hell is the idea that a person can receive Christ as Savior but deny Him as Lord. Proponents of this heresy began infecting the church decades ago and eventually coined the biblical truth that one must yield to the Lordship of Christ as “lordship salvation”.  In the process, they have distorted the Gospel according to Jesus and have twisted the biblical mandate of repentance to no longer mean a change of mind, emotions, and will regarding sin and God, but have reduced repentance to a simple change of mind as to how one views Christ.  According to these teachers, calling people to turn away from their sin is adding works to salvation since all one needs to do in order to be saved is “believe”.

These proponents of the non-lordship position also misrepresent what lordship salvation advocates teach, which is no more or less than what Jesus and His apostles taught.  Oftentimes, these accusations only show ignorance of this biblical doctrine, but much damage is done to those who are younger or weaker in the faith because of the confusion caused by these modern evangelical easy-believist teachers.  What’s more, false converts or carnal christians are given a false assurance of salvation, which ultimately may lead to their destruction in a place called hell – a place they never dreamed they’d find.

In an effort to clear up confusion and clearly represent what the doctrine of lordship salvation truly teaches, I embarked on a 7-part series at airō refuting a recent article titled What Is Wrong with Lordship Salvation?  I wrote the series over the course of 2 weeks and believe you will find it is rich in Scripture and a sound argument against the non-lordship position.  If you wish to learn more about this critical controversy in the evangelical church and sharpen your understanding of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), I invite you to take your time going through the series and the supplemental material you will find throughout the articles.

It is imperative we get the Gospel right, not only for our own sake, but for the sake of those we preach it to.  We must study to show ourselves approved before God and we will be held accountable to remain faithful to the truth that was once delivered to us.

Below you will find the introduction to the series, concluding with a link to Part 2. I pray you will be richly blessed and I encourage you to post questions, concerns, or comments in the appropriate articles of the series.


What Is Wrong with NON-Lordship Salvation – Part 1

On Saturday, March 19th, an article came across my Google Reader titled, What Is Wrong with Lordship Salvation? by Dr. Andy Woods of Sugar Land Bible Church. The article was posted at Bible Prophecy Blog, which is generally a good resource for keeping up with end-times happenings. Unfortunately, because of this non-lordship salvation article and its rejection of the biblical doctrine of “lordship salvation”, I had to remove it from my Blog Roll as I do not want to cause confusion to the Body of Christ or lend to the false assurance of salvation of false converts. Instead, Lord willing, I will be rebutting Dr. Woods’ 5-part argument for his non-lordship position and show why he is in danger of preaching another gospel – one that does not save.

Due to the length of Dr. Woods’ article and the many errors within it, I will break my response into at least 6 articles with Part 1 being a response to Dr. Woods’ introduction. If you would like to read Dr. Woods’ article in its entirety, you can do so here:  What Is Wrong with Lordship Salvation? 

If this is your first time hearing of “lordship salvation”, you might find the following article helpful to you: Lordship Salvation – It Will Cost You Everything.

Part 1- Introduction

Dr. Woods begins his article with the following:

Lordship Salvation is the idea that an unbeliever must commit all areas of his life to Christ as a condition for being saved.

A common tactic I have found of those refuting lordship salvation is their use of logical fallacies, such as the Straw Man fallacy above. I do not know of any person who believes in the unadulterated Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, otherwise known as “lordship salvation”, who suggests or teaches that one must consciously commit all areas of his life to Christ as a condition for being saved. The implication with Dr. Woods’ packaging in the above statement is that one must consciously consider every area of one’s life before coming to the cross, and surrender it to the Lord if they are to be saved. This means, according to Dr. Woods’ understanding of lordship salvation, that one must repent from every single sin and surrender absolutely every element of a person’s life in conscious consideration, if they are to be forgiven. That is a false representation of the lordship salvation position.

The truth is, one must indeed surrender all to the Lord Jesus Christ. Biblically speaking, this means one forsakes everything to be a disciple of Christ (Luke 14:33). Practically speaking, when one is born again of the Spirit, they give up ownership of themselves and their belongings, and they let go of the world and the chains of sin around their neck, broken by the power of the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, when one forsakes everything for Christ, which is a condition of salvation, they forsake control of themselves and put on the gentle yoke of Christ that leads them in sanctifying grace (Matthew 11:29). As humble servants of their Master, the Christian, from the moment of salvation, will begin a journey that leaves their old life behind in increasing measure as they are transformed by the renewing of their mind (Romans 12:2).

Dr. Woods continues in his introduction,

Another way of articulating Lordship Salvation is, “if Jesus is not Lord of all then He is not Lord at all.”

Yes, Jesus is the sovereign Lord over all creation. He is Lord of nonbelievers and believers alike. The only difference between the nonbeliever and the believer is that the believer has acknowledged His lordship, which is to say the believer submits to Christ’s authority simply by professing Him Lord from the core of their new heart (Romans 10:9). The believer has discovered the preciousness of Jesus Christ as Divine, Sovereign Ruler and Master. The believer has valued Christ more than anything else in the world, including their sin and pride. This does not mean that the saint has perfectly repented, but it does mean he acknowledges his sinfulness, is mournful over it, and submits to the authority of His Master to be taught by His grace to deny worldliness and ungodliness (Titus 2:11-14). What results is obedience to the commands of Christ and a relationship of servanthood out of love for a King. Dr. Woods’ position divides Christ into a Savior and a Lord, meaning one can receive one (Savior) without acknowledging the other (Lord). If one only wants half of Jesus, how could they possibly receive all of Him?

Continuing his discussion, Dr. Woods explains,

Lordship Salvation began to significantly enter the American evangelical community in the 1980’s through the ministries of various prominent theologians and pastors. The movement began with the well-intentioned concern to address too much carnality in the Christian world.

Not exactly. As a result of antinomian influence in the American church (namely dispensational and no-lordship antinomianism), which has resulted in countless false conversions due to “cheap grace”, easy-believism and decisional evangelism, certain ministries began to take a stand and recapture the Gospel according to the Lord Jesus Christ. One such ministry is that of John MacArthur, who is often vehemently attacked by opponents to the point of declaring him a heretic. It is arguable how the term “lordship salvation” came about, but the fact of the matter is the doctrine is an essential element of the Gospel and has been taught as such down through the ages of church history. Why? Because “lordship salvation” is nothing less or more than the Gospel.  The concern of “too much carnality in the Christian world”, as Dr. Woods suggests, has been the concern of godly men since the Apostle Paul addressed the Corinthians and warned them about carnality.

Dr. Woods continues,

However, the proposed solution to this legitimate concern was to increase the sole requirement for salvation in an attempt to argue that carnal Christians were never really saved in the first place since they had never initially yielded to Christ’s Lordship.

What is the “sole requirement” for salvation, Dr. Woods? According to your next two sentences, your definition of saving faith is severely lacking:

Sugar Land Bible Church does not believe in or teach Lordship Salvation. For example, Position Statement #6 in our church constitution says, “…repentance, as in a person willfully turning from sin, cannot be a condition for salvation.”

This distorted view of repentance has no Gospel-saving power. What he suggests has been added to the “sole requirement” of salvation has, in fact, always been part of the requirements of salvation – that is, repentance and faith. Dr. Woods, your position allows for a professing Christian to remain in their sins for the totality of their “walk”. Your position allows for a justification that does not necessitate sanctification. Your position allows for an infinite gap between justification and sanctification, eg, sanctification may never occur. Your position divides believing and discipleship. Your position allows for one to ultimately walk away from the faith, yet still be considered a Christian because, by golly, they *once* believed. Finally, your position allows for the “christian” to hold on to their sin, continue in the world, continue to love the world, and continue to be a friend of the world as long as they once “asked Jesus into their heart”. This, Dr. Woods, is contrary to the Gospel that is the power of God to salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16). The Gospel not only saves people, Dr. Woods, but it changes them – without fail (Romans 8:29-30).  Your position is one of the very causes of “too much carnality in the Christian world.”

Many people look at the Lordship controversy as merely semantics. They believe that this issue has no real significance for practical living or ministry.

Indeed, Dr. Woods, this controversy is not mere semantics and its significance is monumental for practical living and ministry. Ultimately, your gospel is a man-centered distortion of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The latter Gospel, on the other hand, is a sovereign plan of God to redeem a people for Himself, according to the counsel of His own will, to the praise of His glorious Son, and to conform a holy and blameless Bride to the image of the Lamb of God who is King of His Church and who will be King of all kings. The Gospel according to God not only saves people from the wrath to come, but it saves them from the bondage of their sin, which is to say the Truth sets us free, it sets us free indeed (John 8:34-36).

In closing his introduction, Dr. Woods says,

In actuality, Lordship Salvation introduces at least five problems into the life of a church.

On the contrary, Dr. Woods, as Scripture will reveal in posts to come…

Please continue to Part 2.

6 Responses to “What Is “Lordship Salvation”?”
  1. Brother Justin,

    I used to attend Tyndale Theological Seminary where Dr. Woods was a professor. I was studying in their M.A. in Biblical Languages and had to drop out because my wife miscarried twins. I took a year off from school to minister to her and when I tried to return the seminary to finish my degree I found out that they made it a requirement that graduate students had to be in complete agreement with the Tyndale doctrinal statement, which denied Lordship salvation (see XII here: http://tyndale.edu/about/doctrine). I had several conversations with some of the faculty about how their doctrinal statement is a straw man but it got me nowhere, for they had their mind made up and didn’t want to be confused with the facts. Thus, since I’m unwilling to lie to get a degree, in God’s providence, I was unable to finish the M.A. in Biblical Languages.

  2. Wow, how interesting, thanks for sharing, brother. What gets me is this: “We reject what is called Lordship Salvation. This teaching seems to go against the clear biblical teaching that salvation is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing can be added to His work on the cross, or to the proclamation of one’s personal faith and trust in His finished work of eternal redemption.”

    They say it “seems” to teach against sola fide, yet they reject the doctrine on that presupposition. And it is that presupposition that is clouding their thinking and keeping them from seeing God’s sovereignty in salvation and His magnificent work of grace that gives a new heart to cause us to be obedient to His commandments. It’s as simple as the sheep loving and following their shepherd, and God gives us the ability to do that. It has nothing to do with us, but everything to do with God. Soli Deo Gloria!

    Praise God for your faithfulness and resolve to your convictions…that is a great testimony of His work in you, my dear brother.

  3. Cheyanna says:

    Grade A stuff. I’m unquestnioalby in your debt.

  4. Harry Coverdale. says:

    I was not familiar with the term “lordship salvation”,but I have been preaching that for years,i have been called a heretic,preaching another gospel etc,but i want to thank God,that i cannot find this antinomianism,easy believism,sloppy gospel in his word,only that there will be a change in a persons life who has confessed Jesus as Lord.Thank you for the encouragement i have had from this post,knowing that there are other brothers and sisters going through this.God bless.

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